October 18th:

Due to Andy T’s ongoing Achilles problem, Syd was ‘elected’ to be the caving organiser, with Rob & Mike subsequently picking the venue – Nettle Pot, with the intention to visit Derbyshire Hall beyond the Flats. (The last DPC visit failing because not enough gear was taken!).

Parking at Oxlow Farm in the layby, Mike, Rob & Syd were the only takers (SRT competent and skinny cavers were requested – Ed.). Caving gear was donned and SRT equipment and ropes sorted before walking up to the Nettle manhole entrance, now equipped with a plaque commemorating the DPC discovery and digging out in 1930-34.

Mike rigged the 160 feet entrance pitch through the Narrows with a couple of re-belays. The 100 feet mainly flat and very muddy crawl along the Flats led to a 30 feet abseil to enter Boulder Passage. Further muddy scrambling amongst the boulders and a traverse across Suicide Pot led to Firbeck Hall with two 15 feet and 30 feet fixed ropes in place for the ascent to the Far Flats. Further flat and muddy crawling led to a final pitch of 40 feet and the small Gour Passage.

 

SRT gear was abandoned here, just before the extremely tight Freeze Squeeze – perhaps 3 feet wide but very low and with a small central roof bulge – sussed by Mike who recommended “feet first, on your stomach and with helmet off!” Mike and Rob squeezed through, then Syd tried. First attempt seemed tight, thoughts of not getting through! He withdrew, thought, weighed up the slot again and on the 2nd attempt slipped through, breathing out and with a 2 inch wriggle leftwards, caressing the rock floor with his cheek in the process. Tight! Through! Wow! Sudden realisation: got to come back this way! A small passage followed, slowly enlarging to walking size to a large chamber, Derbyshire Hall, after 400 feet. Lots of straws, stals, fins, almost translucent in the head torches – guess it doesn’t get too many visitors!

Time for return through the Squeeze, Rob first and then me, but fortunately it wasn’t as bad going back. Finally Mike, to the comments “no need to come here again” Straight forward return back along the rest of the cave with abseiling and prussiking as appropriate – Syd first with Rob and Mike de-rigging. All of us absolutely filthy. Drizzle outside, back to cars by 3pm; wash up gear back at hut, followed by tea.

“Can tell I have been out!” Many thanks to Rob and Mike and to Martin P for the catering.

(Syd, Mike, Rob)